U.S. conducts first cruise missile test since withdrawal from INF Treaty among regrets from Moscow, Beijing

The U.S. has conducted the first test of a ground-launched cruise missile since its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty with Russia earlier this month. On Sunday, the Pentagon flight-tested the missile at San Nicolas Island, California.

The test missile “exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the Defense Department said in a statement. The Pentagon said that during the test, it collected data that will inform its development of future intermediate-range missile capabilities.

If the INF Treaty were still in effect, the test would constitute a violation since, as the statement notes, it traveled “more than 500 kilometers.” The U.S. has air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, so, developing a ground-launched version was a fairly straightforward process. It’s not clear whether any European nations within range of Russia would agree to deploy the weapon on their territory.

Moscow called the test “regrettable” and said it showed Washington had been getting ready to end the treaty for a long time, the Russian TASS news agency reported Tuesday.

TASS quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying, “All this elicits regret, the United States has obviously taken the course of escalating military tensions. We will not succumb to provocations. We won’t allow ourselves to be pulled into a costly arms race.”

Beijing also had a say according to Agence France-Presse. “This measure from the US will trigger a new round of an arms race, leading to an escalation of military confrontation, which will have a serious negative impact on the international and regional security situation,” AFP quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang as saying.

He added that the U.S. ought to “let go of its Cold War mentality” and “do more things that are conducive to … international and regional peace and tranquility.”